Do you know why this post has a title that states — The Social Dilemma is Why I Left Social Media? Read on to understand why. Whether it’s eloquently stated by Tristan Harris, Yuval Noah Harari or Cal Newport, the evils of social media are well-documented. It’s true online toxicity is real, and so too is suicide. Ironic then how I went from being a Social Media Manager at a Digital Marketing Company in Sri Lanka to someone who left social media twice. That said I will state that social media has its place in any content strategy, but that is a different topic for a different day.
Have you noticed the lack of civil discourse, the misinformation present, fake news, and the division within relationships present on social media? The Social Dilemma attempts to raise awareness around important issues like design ethics and data privacy (like the Cambridge Analytica data breach), and succeeds.
Tristan Harris reminds us that — If the product is free, you’re the product. That realization never dawned on me until much later. The first time I left social media was in 2014 when the whole process of posting how fantastic life was just plain tiresome.
The second time was in 2020, and the social media landscape seemed more dysfunctional than the first time. Tristan Harris speaks of how Facebook is a social persuasion machine and is excellent at monetizing your attention. And with all the brands I handled working for the above-mentioned digital agency that was exactly what I was doing.
We hear of how social media companies use attention engineers to make these social media entities as addictive as possible. Profit can be maximised thanks to you giving attention and handing your data over. The University of Stanford talks of the Magic of Maybe, where we really do care about what others think of us — think Likes, Comments and Reactions. This is all a reference to the shot of dopamine you get. Some sources say that this shot of dopamine is equivalent to the levels experienced when consuming cocaine. Additionally there are ethical implications of data extraction even with the new products of Facebook.
Social Comparison Theory
Showiness is often mistaken for reality. What you can gather from this is that more often than not, social media perpetuates that endless cycle of being fake. And I’m not talking about political fake news. Social Comparison Theory is something that is pertinent at this juncture. We have a proclivity to compare ourselves to people who have similar characteristics to us. This can boost or destroy our confidence.
Leon Festinger has a theory, which suggests that there are two types of social comparison — Upwards and Downwards. Upwards is where we compare ourselves to someone who is less than or inferior to ourselves. Downwards is where we compare ourselves to someone who is superior or better than us.
The theory basically states that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others they perceive as somehow faring better or worse. No surprise then that so many suffer from what is known as Facebook Depression, which leads to less life satisfaction and more sadness.
The Antidote To Social Media Is Deep Work
Seth Godin makes a mention of how — one should not become a wandering generality, be a meaningful specific. That’s a pertinent thought for any individual or company. Social media is a waste of time, unless you’re a brand. It does have its place in crafting out a brand’s journey. And if you’re career-minded, it can assist unless you commit yourself to that heinous dopamine-driven feedback loop, which affects your cognitive function.
Cal Newport mentions how our attention is being fragmented to such an extent we cannot concentrate. The solution is deep work that’ll help you focus on rewarding work minus the distractions. We are all part of the attention economy, and social media companies are competing for your attention. But with social media morphing into more of a business than just a social interaction tool, it became an entity that could be best described as being nefarious.
All the moral panics are real. The Trauma Floor showcases the issues faced by Facebook moderators, and it is harrowing. More so are the issues with your supply of attention, which focus on your short to midterm goals being decimated. Chamath Pahaliyapitiya said it best — If you feed the beast, it will destroy you. And so, this is my conclusion, especially if social media doesn’t benefit you in a way that’ll help you becoming a meaningful specific (like an author): Unsubscribe.